The Four Primary Challenges Facing Credit Union CIOs Today and How to Address Them


I was recently asked what I thought were the biggest challenges facing credit union CIOs today. As I see it, the number one challenge is simply credit union survival. Credit union departments are overwhelmed with balancing the processes they’re already committed to with the sense that there is so much more they should do if they are going to win and survive; credit union CIOs are facing the same thing. They need the confidence that they can find solutions to meet that challenge of not just surviving, but thriving.

Becoming competent with data

Today’s CIO has four primary focuses for thriving in the modern credit union environment. The first is to become more competent with data. Many credit unions seem to look at data as something somebody else should be doing. They shovel off their data to third parties to get insights, but they rarely make the decision to invest internally in understanding their data and getting the most out of it. CIOs should be pushing themselves and their partners to develop new data warehousing and analysis solutions that they can use to turn data into a core competency at their credit union.

Managing the mounting pressure around security and fraud

Secondly, how will the credit union handle the pressure surrounding security and fraud? Are mounting costs something they see as an inevitability, or do they have a partner invested in reducing the cost of compliance? This is an area that CIOs should be focused on not only from an IT perspective, but also for compliance execution. Research new solutions that speed the movement of information from credit union to auditor. Educate staff and board on cybersecurity and the steps take to protect member data.

Mobile, mobile, mobile!

It might seem like a no brainer to credit unions to focus on mobile solutions, but why stop at one or two solutions? Credit unions will need dozens of mobile applications in the future. Affinity apps, apps that target different demographics, all-encompassing apps and specialized ones. Credit unions need to expand their digital services libraries, and to stop looking at mobile solutions as a one and done item to check off a list. A branch can no longer be seen as simply a brick and mortar site; credit unions need to expand their reach by adding hundreds of virtual branches through which they can interact with their communities.

Vendor of choice network extensions

Lastly, CIOs need to strike the right balance between a build vs. buy mentality. Invest in DIY (do it yourself) and DIT (do it together) development efforts and own the services provided to members. On the other side, vendor partners need to facilitate this type of mentality by providing easier access to the tools and resources needed to succeed. By doing so, it gives CIOs more freedom to weigh their options when deciding whether to develop in-house or shop for vendors.


  • Randy Karnes

    From 1994 to 2021, Mr. Karnes was CEO of CU*Answers, a credit union-owned CUSO that provides core processing, consulting, management, and technology services. An active participant in the credit union industry since 1985, Mr. Karnes currently serves on the Boards of Xtend and eDOC Innovations and formerly served on the Board of Callahan and Associates for many years. Mr. Karnes has an infectious vision and drive for bringing credit unions together to explore the power of collaboration in entirely new ways. His enthusiasm for imagining and building new credit union business models has been helping to change the way many credit unions will approach serving members now and in the future.

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